What Is the Point of Safety Cars in Sim Racing?

In the real world of motorsport, Safety Cars are essential to neutralise the racing. Marshals are out on track to retrieve debris or stationary cars, after all. But since that is not the case in the virtual world, are Safety Cars needed in sim racing?

Last week, many of the top F1 Esports drivers were competing in Round 12 of PSGL's top PC tier. During the pitstop window, some of the drivers had pitted before one of them crashed, which brought out a safety car.

This resulted in the drivers who had not pitted gaining a load of free positions. Ferrari driver and reigning PSGL champion Bari Broumand finished third behind his main rival Jarno Opmeer, and tweeted his frustrations after the race.

That got us thinking. Why even have the safety car enabled at all?

Breaking Immersion​

Sim racing is, of course, attempting to replicate real racing. As a result, the argument can be made that removing the need of a safety car would break the immersion. Of course, with many people in sim racing who want to get as close to the real thing as possible, it is an essential part.

But unlike pitstops, tyre wear, fuel usage, and even weather to a certain degree, it is very imbalanced as to how it affects people’s races. It’s a necessary evil though in the real world, and assuming the rules are applied correctly, can be chalked up to “that’s just part of racing”.

However, in that aforementioned PSGL race, when the driver crashed out, their car just instantly despawned. So the only purpose the safety car serves is to neutralise the race to protect the non-existent marshalls.

It just feels completely unnecessary as it tends to randomly benefit some and ruin the races of others.

Where It Works​

This is not to say there are no situations that do not warrant a safety car in sim racing. A slow moving car trying to return to the pits under its own power, or a stationary car or big pile up with no quick de-spawning are examples in online races. But what about single player?

If you play an F1 game career mode and you have mechanical failures enabled, drivers can stop or be slow on the racing line. Having parts fail on a racing game can be annoying, since it is unavoidable in the real world. But it is seemingly a randomised function in sim racing.

So whilst many people like the immersion, it is safe to say the vast majority of sim racers are there to enjoy some competition. If any competitive environment can bypass a feature that is not unavoidable for the sake of fairness, it should do that.

Plus with someone’s internet connection essentially acting as a potential equivalent for mechanical failures in sim racing, who should also have to worry about an engine randomly blowing up?


As unpopular an opinion this might be, sim racing does not need to fully replicate everything in real racing. Unless iRacing and the F1 games can add marshalls that behave like actual humans to remove each individual piece of debris over a period of laps, it can be removed altogether.

Of course, there is the added element of bunching the field back up to go back racing. But then why not just throw a competition caution? They do it in a lot of American-based motorsports. State a designated period of time for when a caution will come out, so the drivers can time any pitstops they have.

Of course, that runs the risk of creating artificial racing and not letting the race run naturally. Overall, it’s a slippery slope with no definitive correct answer. It all comes down to whether one wants to part with some immersion for the sake of fairness.

But in high level competitive championships with prize money on the line for example, safety cars just don’t serve any purpose other than to shake up the natural order like a Mario Kart race.

Do you think safety cars are needed in sim racing? Are there any surprises to you? Let us know on Twitter @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!
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About author
Luca [OT]
Biggest sim racing esports fan in the world.


good number of words, interesting ideas. I have for years lamented the absence of safety car and mechanical failure in AI cars in ACC, especially in the long distance races it is a crucial element to spice up an otherwise static event going on for hour after hour. When we were doing the STC tournament in Race07 one of our organizing team joined the grid as a safety car driver at the back of the field, went to the front and we did a "real" rolling start with him shouting "green light" when the field was all nicely lined up, that added immersion. In other leagues, marshalls threw the red flag, e.g. after a completely chaotic t1, but that sometimes does not penalize the culprits enough, they can rejoin like anyone else and maybe later get a penalty but no DNF. So, all in all: put safety car and fcy in, it adds to the immersion.
This article sounds like "I want realism until I don't like it"
"However, in that aforementioned PSGL race, when the driver crashed out, their car just instantly despawned. So the only purpose the safety car serves is to neutralise the race to protect the non-existent marshalls."
That's the issue. It shouldn't. Remember Grand Prix 4?
"It just feels completely unnecessary as it tends to randomly benefit some and ruin the races of others."
So by the same line of reasoning we shouldn't have weather changes? It would seem so judging how people usually run their races.
Motor racing was never fair. I don't see races stopped just to let somebody regain their position in the case of a crash caused by an unfair overtake, for example.
The point of sim racing should be replicating real racing, because real racing is too damn expensive, and therefore something that many might never experience. We might as well race with ghost cars at this point. This is also why some games can have realistic driving, and yet not be sim racing games (Forza, Gran Turismo, etc.)
Rfactor2's safety cars used to grind my gears. They'd go on forever and the cars in front of you would make no attempt to close up to the pack.
I like the SC feature and miss it really in ACC. It's a point that can add excitement, forcing you to make the right decision, but also brings the field back together. Drivers who may have been pushed to the back due to an incident now potentially have the chance to attack again. Sometimes you win with a SC, and sometimes you lose.

Currently, every race tends to be very static, and once the gap between the drivers is there, you can often switch off because not much happens anymore.
If there is a will to put a safety car, then at least, the game should disable the possibility to teleport to pit. And then, let the AI of track put your car out of the track, like in Grand Prix 3, when you destroyed your car, you had an animation of it being lifted by a crane and brought inside the wall.
In this case the safety car could be great, but in the other way, it's just usefull for launched start like in Endurance and GT races.
It's a complicated subject in simracing.
The fact that games don't fully replicate simulate, the racing sport should not be a reason to lower the realism by cutting a major feature of the real sport.

Games should show marshalls and cranes, ecen with basic animations,working around crashed cars to go with the safety cars as they now show the pit crew working on a car when it enters the pits.

Crashes and safety cars are 100% part of this sport, making the envents less predictable. In this article fairness = predictable, that's absolutely counterproductive sportwise.

If you want a 100% "fair" esport environment, you would have to cut any feature which add some unpredictability : different pit stop times (entry and put crew work, these could be considered as not being parts of racing on a track afterall), contacts between cars (great, no more crashes and almost no more safety cars), no heavy rain (which would resilt in a safety car and even stoppung the race)... where does the list go on? Are manual starts really part of the racing? All of these are fully parts of the sport.

If we cut anything "unfair" unpredictable, just make hotlap competitions. The competitors make 20 laps and the faster is the winner. Great, what an event, they should do that IRL too, for safery and fairness reasons, amazing, why nobody has thought about that before?

The real question imo is about these ridiculous esport thing. How did we get to a point were it isnpossible to make money by playing games? And how these gamers dare to complain about their game not being easier for them?

What is a real worry is that an article has been made avout that and even agrees with such a statement. If an article had to be written, it should just make fun of that gamer, just a parhetic loser in that case. Another question is : is this affair just the result of a global mentality, which tends to propote easy money/win with less efforts?
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Why racesports are so popular in the first olace? The same as soccer, MMA or boxing. Unpredactability. You can dominate the whole time and lose the match.

Cutting this unpredactability in racing would be as declaring a soccer team a winner because it has better stats than the other at the end of the match. Which happens in MMA or boxing, and it is not really interesting, any viewer expects a submission or a K.O. . Can you iimagine a boxing game where you can't be K.O. because, as a gamer behind your screen, you can't be K.O. ?

What is the pount of safety cars in sim racing? What is the point of sim racing then ?
EDIT : the short answer to the question is obvious : simulation.
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If, the SIM racing event is trying to replicate a real life series event, as this competition was trying to do, then yes, SC is essential, as is any feature that will try to replicate real life. That it applies to the specific of pretending to compete on a computer is beside to point.
If that immature sore looser had won because of the same situation, but in his favor, would have he complained?
Discovering, as is apparently the case for him, that talent only does not guaranty the best outcome, is a great lesson, as it is the case in racing, but not only.
I also think that safety cars are "curved balls" that make racing more unpredictable and fun. A problem I think would exist though is how to trigger the SC to come out. Weather can be a rather easy trigger, but what about accidents?
Funny as I was thinking about this the other day. I was thinking that cars dont get stuck in gravel traps in sims but there are crashes that would have you without a wheel etc and you press the spawn to pit..
What if you couldnt and you were stuck there waiting for a truck to pull you back - and if you disconnected your car did not leave sim until it was towed. At least it would give scenarios that warranted the safety car..
Then I thought how often racing might stop in your average race for safety cars and thought it might not be as great as first thought.
when the driver crashed out, their car just instantly despawned. So the only purpose the safety car serves is to neutralise the race to protect the non-existent marshalls.
What bullshit. So you're saying that because we have this already arcade element (despawning car) we need to add more arcade elements (remove safetycar feature)? Why not just remove the despawning and even add those marshalls so we can really call it SIM racing, not just a esports car game.

But in high level competitive championships with prize money on the line for example, safety cars just don’t serve any purpose other than to shake up the natural order like a Mario Kart race.
I can't disagree more. I mean if you want to simulate the real racing, which I think is the whole idea. If not, then you could just as well race with any Star Wars pods in exciting planets and just respawn if you crash. Otherwise drivers should just grow balls, stop whining and just drive better next time. It's not about if it's fair or not, it's about simulating motor racing. And the higher the level, the more realistic it should be, not the other way around. Simulator is one thing and fair gaming for fun is another. Let's not mix them.

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Luca Munro
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